ASHEVILLE, N.C. - There is a lot of excitement going on at Lincoln as the luxury division rolls out three new models for the 2007 model year. During a media preview held earlier this month in North Carolina, I had the opportunity to log seat time behind the wheel of the all-new MKX crossover utility vehicle, the new MKZ sedan and the new full-size SUV Navigator.

Following the two-day drive program, I understand why the folks at Lincoln are smiling.

The new MKX luxury crossover is a winner. Based on the same platform as the MKZ, the mid-size crossover is available in front- (base price starting just below $35,000) or all-wheel drive (base price starts just below $37,000).

Powered by an all-new 3.5-liter V-6 engine (265 horsepower) and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and using 87 octane gasoline, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

Designed with an eye for modern luxury, the MKX is a striking vehicle, inside and out. The five-passenger cabin is quiet, comfortable and very nicely appointed.

Buyers also have the option of adaptive headlamps, panoramic glass roof, heated and cooled front seats, 14-speaker THX premium audio system and a DVD-based navigation system.

I was very impressed with the MKX. Lincoln has hit a homerun and I expect it will deliver a significant number of conquest sales in the coming model year.

I also had a chance to drive the new MKZ. In addition to a new name (the MKZ replaces the Zephyr) the mid-size sedan features new styling, appointments and a brand new powertrain shared with the MKX.

Driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains, I found the MKZ's ride and handling characteristics exceptional. Lincoln did a nice job on adding value to the new model.

Also available in front- and all-wheel drive, the MKZ has a base price starting around $31,000 FWD, $35,445 AWD)

Additionally, full-size SUV buyers will find more options in Lincoln showrooms as the division adds an extended wheelbase version to the Navigator. The "L" series - available in RWD or 4X4 - adds 15 inches in length (25 extra cubic feet for cargo) as well as a number of new features for the 2007 model year.

With a base price starting around $54,000, the Navigator L is loaded with comfort and luxury for those seeking seating for eight passengers with lots of room for cargo.

During my short introduction, I was very impressed with the new Lincoln trio, which will begin arriving in Lincoln dealerships this month.

I look forward to an extended test drive in each of the models.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com .